Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero has repeatedly made headlines over the last several years planning the world’s first full head transplant. Dr. Canavero already has a patient lined up, a Russian man suffering from a genetic disease which causes a loss of motor control and muscle atrophy. In preparation of what could be a groundbreaking surgery, a special virtual reality interface has already been designed to lessen the psychological trauma of waking up in another body has been designed, along with a precision diamond scalpel that can cut through spinal nerves with minimal tearing. Now, the members of Canavero’s team of mad scientists has pushed the possibility of a head transplant further towards the realm of the possible by testing some of their radical techniques on rats.
In their published paper describing their technique and results, the doctors assert their success was based on using a third rat as a ‘blood bag’ à la Mad Max: Fury Road. This third rat was attached to the donor rat during and after head removal using a special pump, keeping the donor head supplied with warm blood throughout the procedure.
According to their paper, the scientists believe this procedure could open up entire new approaches to swapping heads:
In this state, the donor head was maintained for up to 6 hours, with no obvious abnormalities in the donor’s EEG or corneal reflexes. Following nociceptive stimuli [(poking with a stick)], the donor head exhibited substantial movement. We speculate that the method used in this experiment can provide a new idea for the short-term preservation of central nervous system transplantation. As such, this might represent an alternative to head detachment at neck level.
Fourteen of the two-headed rats lived for thirty-six hours and seemed perfectly fine, but every one of the piteous monstrosities was euthanized at the end of their horrific thirty-six hours as a medical demon. Similar two-headed abominations have been made in the past with dogs and monkeys, but this new procedure seems to so far show much better post-surgery outcomes thanks to the ‘blood bag’ technique.
Whether or not this will work for humans remains to be seen because of, you know, those pesky ethics. The first head transplant patient will be blazing a trail into unknown medical territory and could likely die as a result. Like poor little Laika or Marie Curie, science sometimes requires sacrifices in order to push human knowledge a little further.